The “Giving Victims a Voice” report of 11th January 2013 tells us that Savile carried out his abuse from 1955 to 2009; that 214 crimes have been recorded so far – but at least 450 have been identified in the last few months but not recorded due to “some people wishing to remain anonymous and others who don’t wish the matter to be reported as a crime or are unable to remember sufficient detail.” There will be many more victims who felt they could not come forward at all, or who died prior to Operation Yewtree. The abuse occurred across the UK including London, Leeds, Scotland, Wales and Jersey; in hospitals, hospices, tv studios, children’s homes; and the victims were female and male ranging from 8 to 47.
Following the release of the report, the police and media have posed the question, “How did he get away with it?” This question needs to be split into three:
Q1) Victims have made many allegations to the police over the years, but prosecutions did not take place – why was this? Why did it take an ITV documentary in late 2012 to finally expose Savile’s crimes? Noting the programme maker, Mark Williams Thomas, came under pressure not to go ahead with the programme and that the police investigation, Operation Yewtree, and the 13 other investigations were only instigated because of the ITV documentary.
Q2) Many people witnessed Savile’s crimes and/or were aware of allegations but did nothing. Some of these people allowed him to remain in situations where he could abuse – why was this?
Q3) Many people who were abused by Savile did not report this. Many have now reported the crimes, but many have still not reported the crimes. Why is this?
Some possible answers to Q1 & Q2 (and some further questions):
The “He groomed a nation” argument.
Edwina Currie, Paul Gambaccini and many others have put forward the argument that Savile “hoodwinked us all”. This is known as the “he groomed a nation” argument. This has been the headline of many newspaper articles on the topic.
However, if we take the UK population as being 70 million, subtract the number of people who did not witness his crimes, and then subtract all the people who heard allegations but were not in a position to prevent him accessing children, we are left with probably only 5,000 people. The victims are in this figure, as are Edwina Currie, Paul Gambaccini, the BBC, MI5 and so on. I don’t feel I belong in the 5,000. The fact I watched Jim’ll Fix It as a kid has not led me to feel “groomed”. “Mildly entertained at the time” would be more accurate. So, is the “he groomed a nation” argument valid? Or are people trying to avoid being singled out?
Edwina Currie tells us (hear audio below) she “wondered what he was up to” and knew he had “access to staff records and finance information (at Broadmoor) – this allowed him to blackmail anyone who challenged him”. At what point does this become collusion, i.e. allowing something to happen when there is a duty, or at least moral obligation, to stop it? (listen to audio below including Sir Louis Blom-Cooper interview).
The “it was a different world back then” argument.
“The 1960’s-70’s were an age of different social attitudes”. What does this actually mean? That it was a norm for men to leer at 16 year olds? That it was acceptable to rape minors in those decades? Could it be possible that in some ways social attitudes in the 60’s and 70’s were more conducive to good child protection than they are today?
“Attitudes to child abuse were not the same as they are now/there was a failure to give a voice to victims who often came from care backgrounds and were deemed unreliable witnesses.” Do we give victims a voice now? The last known ‘failure to prosecute’ was as recent as 2009.
“Peak offending occurred between 1965 and 1978, over a decade before the 1989 Children’s Act.” But as police techniques and legal frameworks developed, did everyone lose the memories and reports of what had happened in the past? Savile’s last recorded sexual assault on a child was in 2009 – two decades after the 1989 Children’s Act.
The “Savile was part of powerful paedophile, masonic and criminal networks which afforded him protection” argument.
This argument says that Savile was part of a number of paedophile rings involving other powerful people. He could call on these networks, involving police, politicians, royalty and freemasons to ensure allegations were dismissed and/or he had damaging information on powerful people so they would protect him to make sure the information did not get out.
Were Savile’s boasts that his “pals in the police could fix any allegations” just chutzpah? He made similar claims about the IRA protecting him in relation to his regular visits to Ireland. (The Yewtree report states, “There is no clear evidence of Savile operating within a paedophile ring, although whether he was part of an informal network is part of the continuing investigation and it’s not therefore appropriate to comment further on this.”) [See Operation Fairbank (now Operation Fernbridge) as a result of Tom Watson's question at PMQs.]
Why isn’t there a 15th investigation on the list to look at Haut de la Garenne in Jersey? Savile said he wasn’t there and sued to ensure the story was killed, but photographic evidence was later produced to prove he was.
Will 14 separate investigations really get to the whole truth, or do we need a review/public inquiry to bring everything together as Yvette Cooper and Mark Williams Thomas are calling for? Or is a Royal Commission the only hope, such as the one going on now in Australia?
The majority of Savile’s abuse was “opportunistic sexual assaults” often using violence, coercion, and rape. Academic research shows that such offenders will have a wide range of criminal activity. These people have psychopathic tendencies and do not connect with other humans in a normal way. What else was he involved in? Fraud (currently under investigation) and necrophilia are the longest standing allegations. What about murder?
Some possible answers to Q3 (and further questions):
The “Giving Victims a Voice” report relays a number of reasons from victims as to why they had not previously reported abuse: fear of not being believed or taken seriously, shame being brought on one’s self or the family, a perception that they were responsible, a lack of trust in statutory agencies and feeling the justice system was ineffective in prosecuting the offender, a fear of getting themselves or the perpetrator into trouble, a perception that the abusive behaviour was ‘normal’, the perpetrator used threats and coercion to silence them..
How does society, law and culture need to change in response to this evidence? It’s not new evidence – we’ve heard the ‘lessons must be learned’ mantra before – why weren’t they?
How many children and parents know how to spot ‘grooming’? How many know what it actually is?
Does sex and relationship education in schools help or hinder child sexual abuse? Should children learn the correct names for sexual anatomy, or is this sexualising children?
Why are people reluctant to confront abusive behaviour, particularly that of dominant figures in positions of authority or influence. How do we change the culture? (listen to Susie Orbach documentary below for further information).
Channel 4 News: Giving Victims A Voice – Edwina Currie & Mark Williams-Thomas:
BBC Radio programme about Broadmoor and Savile including interview with Sir Louis Blom-Cooper:
Radio 4 Susie Orbach programme about latest research into those who sexually abuse children;